The federal government will bring in 300,000 immigrants in 2017, the same number as this year, but plans to boost those numbers in coming years.
That’s welcome news — Canada has been good to immigrants, and immigration has been good for Canada.
In announcing the government’s immigration target this week, Immigration Minister John McCallum wouldn’t say how much immigration numbers will rise in the future, saying only that 300,000 is the baseline figure. A council of economic advisers guiding the government on growth strategies has recommending increasing immigration levels to 450,000 a year over the next five years.
The council says that without boosts to immigration levels, the country faces a crisis: labour shortages and too few working-age Canadians to pay for the social-safety net, which includes health care and seniors’ benefits.
“I do believe that it is true that more immigrants for Canada would be a good policy … and we have today laid the foundation for that future growth,” McCallum said Monday.
Immigration can be a rocky road. Newcomers often face language barriers and massive cultural changes. Even though immigration is seen as a solution to labour shortages, newcomers can be trapped in low-income jobs.
Despite that, few regret coming here, according to a research paper on immigration done for Statistics Canada.
“Regarding the perception of immigrants of their life in Canada, in spite of difficult economic outcomes experienced by many in recent years, by and large they remain positive regarding their decision to come to Canada,” says the paper.
“When asked about their views of Canada, after four years immigrants entering Canada in 2000 indicated that they most appreciated the freedom, rights, safety and security and prospects for the future that Canada had to offer.
“Among the challenges they faced, many pointed to economic issues such as locating employment. After being in Canada for four years, about three-quarters of the 2000 immigrants said that they would make the decision to come to Canada again.”
Many come to Canada not so much for themselves, but so their children can have a better life, and the Statistics Canada paper backs that optimism.
“Most second-generation Canadians attain very high levels of education, and as a result, do very well in the labour market,” says the paper.
“Their educational and economic outcomes are seen, on average, to be equal to or better than those of their Canadian-born counterparts.”
Canada has not experienced the struggles with immigration that besets some European countries. One of the reasons is that immigration has always been a part of our culture, not a threat to it. Granted, racial and ethnic bigotry were too much a part of Canadian immigration practices in the past, but policies have become more enlightened.
“Most Canadians take pride in the ability of the country to welcome people from many different cultural backgrounds,” says the StatsCan paper, “and they expect immigration to contribute positively to the growth of the nation, as it has done in the past.”
Immigrants come to Canada looking for a better life. It’s not a one-way street — when they succeed, they add to Canada’s cultural and economic well-being.