Post by Kyle Baun.
The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted many facets of life, impacting people in a variety of ways. The global pandemic has led to border closures, lockdowns and economic disturbances, negatively affecting immigration flows into Canada, which could be detrimental to the nation for years to come. This policy brief intends to highlight the value of immigration to Canada, examine its current immigration policies and assess the impact of Covid-19 on immigration.
Why does Canada need immigration?
Canada has relied on immigration from its early beginnings, priding itself on being diverse and inclusive, and this multiculturalism has become engrained in its national identity (Agopsowicz, 2020). Accordingly, roughly 20% of Canadians are foreign born, which is one of the highest ratios in OECD countries (Cheatham, 2020). Aside from this, Canada relies on immigration flows as a means to offset the rapidly aging ‘baby boomer’ generation and low native birth rates (1.5 births / woman) (Ferrer et al., 2014; Cheatham, 2020). It is estimated that approximately 9 million Canadians will reach retirement age over the next decade, suggesting that it will need to become even more dependent on immigration to maintain a strong workforce (El-Assal et al., 2020). Furthermore, immigrants are necessary in Canada for economic stability and growth (OECD, 2019). Migrants to Canada have proven to be a good source for innovation, they provide financial sustenance to post-secondary institutions and support the growth of cities (Agopsowicz, 2020).
What is Canada’s current immigration policy?
Given the importance of immigration to Canada, it has made the management of immigration, specifically labor migration, a priority, as it is vital to the prosperity of the country (OECD, 2019). Canada has developed the Express Entry immigration selection process, a framework that is used to select skilled immigrants. The system that Canada uses is highly regarded, and its success is underscored by a high naturalization and assimilation rate, strong appeal to potential migrants, as well, public acceptance (OECD, 2019). Similar to Australia and New Zealand, Canada’s selection system relies on a refined point system that targets skilled workers. This is reflected in the fact that roughly 60% of immigrants to Canada are admitted as economic migrants (OECD, 2019). Part of the success of the system in Canada is
What are the implications of the global pandemic on Canadian Immigration Policy?
Canada’s ability to hit its target of one million new residents over the next three years has recently become jeopardized due to the impact of Covid-19. As we are currently amidst the pandemic, it is difficult to predict what implications Covid-19 may have long-term, but underlying numbers suggest that Canada’s immigration flow slowdown could last for months, potentially derailing a critical source of economic growth (Agopsowicz, 2020). For example, the second quarter of 2020 saw the number of admissions for permanent residence and permits for temporary foreign workers decline by 67% and 50% respectively, compared to the same period in 2019 (Agopsowicz, 2020). Furthermore, the number of student visas processed was down to 10,000, which is a stark contrast to the 107,000 approved in 2019 (Agopsowicz, 2020). However, the most concerning statistic however is that new visa applications are down 80%, suggesting that this slowdown may last for months (Agopsowicz, 2020). Therefore, despite announcing earlier in the year (pre-Covid-19) that Canada was aiming for record high numbers of immigrants, it is possible they will achieve some of their lowest numbers ever.
Where does Canada go from here?
As previously mentioned, according to a new global survey conducted by Gallup, Canada is the most accepting country for migrants (Esipova et al., 2020). However, new research amidst the current crises shows that Canadians may not be as accepting to immigrants as the opinion poll may suggest. Newbold (2020), notes that the global pandemic has shaped a negative opinion towards immigrants and cites an increase in racism and discrimination towards them since the onset of Covid-19. Moreover, a recent survey examining Canadian’s thoughts on immigration policy found that the majority of Canadians believe that the government should restrict immigration to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Respondents pointed towards immigrants posing a threat to the welfare system and not adopting Canadian values, as reasons to restrict immigration. However, Newbold (2020) notes that if these attitudes were to take hold, the effects to Canada’s economy and national identity would be detrimental.
Moving forward, Canada is facing unprecedented challenges with regards to it immigration policy and it is critical that the nation finds a way to resolve them. Immigrants are not only a part of Canada’s national identity, they play a vital role in boosting its economy, spurring innovation, as well as offsetting its declining domestic birthrate and aging population. It remains to be seen exactly what Canada plans to do in the current environment, with tight border restrictions, but finding a novel solution should be a priority.
1. Agopsowicz, A. (2020). The Canadian Dream Postponed: Near-term Recovery in Immigration Levels is Unlikely. Retrieved from https://thoughtleadership.rbc.com/the-canadian-dream-postponed-near-term-recovery-in-immigration-levels-is-unlikely/?utm_medium=referral
2. Cheatham, A. (2020). What Is Canada’s Immigration Policy? Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-canadas-immigration-policy
3. Duffin, E. (2020). Canada: Immigrants by age 2020. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/443305/international-migrants-in-canada-2014/