Canada aims at 1.5m immigrants by 2025 but many are sceptical

Aging population is making Canada to bring 1.5 million immigrants to the country, says the BBC in a report, as the North American nation is facing the same problem like other Western countries.

It is necessary to fill the gap in its economy left by “aging Baby Boomers” leaving the workforce amid lower birth rate. However, not everyone is on board with bringing in so many people from abroad with the immigration being one of the most controversial issues in the West.

In this connection, the federal government earlier this month announced an aggressive plan to take in 500,000 immigrants a year by 2025, with almost 1.5 million new immigrants coming to the country over the next three years.

This plan would see Canada welcome about eight-times the number of permanent residents each year – per population – than the UK, and four-times more than the United States.

But a recent poll shows that there is also anxiety about welcoming in so many newcomers. In a poll of 1,537 Canadians conducted by Leger and the Association of Canadian Studies, three out of four said they were somewhat or very concerned about the affect the new plan would have on housing and social services. Almost half, 49 percent, said the targets were too high, while 31 percent said that they were the right number.

Permanent Residents

According to the BBC report, Canada for many years has tried to attract permanent residents – landed immigrants who have the right to stay in the country indefinitely but who are not citizens – to keep the population and the economy growing. Last year, the country took in 405,000 permanent residents – the most in its entire history.

Immigration already accounts for practically all of the country’s labour force growth, and by 2032, it is expected to account for all of the country’s population growth too, according to a government news release.

Population Composition

The BBC also says that around one in four Canadians have come to the country as an immigrant, the highest among G7 nations. Compare that to the US and the UK have an immigrant population of about 14 percent

But the UK, a small island with twice the population of Canada, already has high population density, while Canada, which has a population of just over 38 million and one of the largest land masses in the world, has room to grow.

Geoffrey Cameron, a political scientist at McMaster University, said that while many countries, like Canada, face lower birth rates and an aging population, the success of any immigration system relies on popular support. “The limiting factor for most countries is public opinion,” he said.

In the US, where the number of migrants entering the country through the southern border has reached an all-time high, there is overall a concern about having more immigrants than there are jobs.

Pre-Brexit, a wave of European Union migrants from eastern Europe moving to the UK created a backlash against migration. But over the past several years, Sumption said, popular opinion for immigration has risen, in part because people believe the country has better control over who comes in than they did before.

Canada, meanwhile, has historically had very high support for immigration. But that does not mean that there are no immigration concerns.

In recent years, an influx of migrants at the US border has caused some controversy, and the emergence of a new fringe right-wing party in 2018, the People’s Party of Canada, kept the topic in the national conversation in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election.

When the government announced its aggressive targets of up to 500,000 new immigrants a year, the province of Quebec, which gets to set its own immigration limits, said it would not take in more than 50,000 a year. That would mean that Quebec, which has 23 percent of the country’s population, would only be taking in 10 percent of the country’s immigrants, the BBC said.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he was concerned more immigrants would weaken the French language in the province. “Already at 50,000 it is difficult to stop the decline of French,” he said.

And while it’s true that Canada may have more room to grow, some places are still feeling the crunch. Major cities like Toronto and Vancouver – where about 10% of the population currently lives – have affordable housing crises.

The Canadian approach

Another way that Canada is unique in the western world is its emphasis on economic immigration – about half of Canada’s permanent residents are welcomed because of their skills, not under family reunification. By 2025, the government hopes to make that 60%.

This is partly because of how the Canadian system was designed, said Cameron. In the 1960s, Canada shifted from a system of quotas, where different countries were assigned different targets, to a points-based system that gave preference to highly-skilled immigrants who would more easily contribute to Canada’s economy. “The same kind of principles guide the system today,” he told the BBC.

Globally, this is unique, although Australia and New Zealand have similar systems in place.

While the UK recently switched to a points-based system, Sumption said that in effect, it remains similar to their old system, which gave preference to immigrants who had job offers in place.

Can Canada meet its targets?

Not only does Canada take in more economic-class immigrants than other major nations, the country is also one of the top for refugee resettlement, accepting 20,428 refugees in 2021.

But while the country has set ambitious targets for the future, history has shown it does not always meet its own expectations. In 2021, Canada had a target of resettling about 59,000 refugees – almost three times as many as the country took in. By 2023, Canada aims to help resettle 76,000 refugees.

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