Canada’s success with immigration

From the Migration Policy Institute: More than one of every five Canadian residents foreign born. Nearly 47,000 refugees were resettled in 2016—the highest level in Canadian history.

Three oceans (one frozen most of the year) and a developed country to the south act as a buffer from large-scale uncontrolled migration. Furthermore, Canadian history made the country more multinational in character from its start than a traditional nation-state.

The widely held perception among Canadians that immigrants are an economic boon and cultural asset to the country has made public opinion on the subject generally resilient, even as sharp backlashes have unfolded in the United States and Europe.

In the 1960s, Canada made dramatic changes liberalizing immigration. It did away with race-based selection criteria in 1962, and subsequently established the more neutral points system in 1967 to assess potential immigrants based on their ability to integrate quickly into the workforce (e.g., language, education, experience, skills, and job offers).

Immigrants admitted under economic preferences have consistently accounted for half or more of newly arrived immigrants. Taken together, these shifts have had important implications for Canadian integration policy and outcomes.

The government has frequently adjusted the points system to further improve labor market integration, most recently with the 2015 introduction of the Express Entry system to fast-track those skilled workers deemed most likely to integrate successfully. Upon arrival, policies and programs targeting settlement, citizenship, and multiculturalism further facilitate integration.

Central to Canada’s success has been its commitment to stay true to the early definitions of integration, while being flexible and open to policy change and refinement. Policymakers and bureaucrats regularly evaluate programs; systematically collect data on integration; analyze commissioned and noncommissioned research; consult with nongovernmental organizations and provinces for their expertise; assess experiences of other countries; and monitor mainstream and ethnic media to identify issues related to integration outcomes. This evidence-based approach forms the basis of advice to the government, with respect to ongoing and emerging issues as well as political priorities.

One key element to Canada’s resilience thus far is the confidence of Canadians that their government controls and manages immigration.

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