Is Canada friendly to immigrants?

Canada’s immigration is extensive. It accepts hundreds of thousands of immigrants as permanent residents or refugees every year. But that alone doesn’t explain the country’s attitude toward immigrants. Is Canada friendly to immigrants?

The country’s policies show that Canada is friendly to immigrants. Pro immigrant policies include anti-discrimination, multiculturalism, citizenship, asylum, settlement programs, and refugees’ healthcare. Unfavourable ones include the lack of job mobility and political participation for immigrants.

Beyond that, the popular perception of immigration is generally positive in the country even though there are always people who are anti-immigration. Here, we discuss Canada’s attitude towards immigrants by looking at the various policies that affect immigrants.

Pro-Immigrant Policies

Most of Canada’s policies on immigration are in place to help immigrants adjust seamlessly to life in a new country while retaining their cultural heritage. These policies include:

1.   Anti-Discrimination policies

Canada is tough on discrimination against immigrants and has enacted laws and policies to prevent and punish such acts.  One of such laws is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. This charter gives certain rights to citizens, permanent residents, and newcomers. It also protects these rights against infringement. In addition, the charter has led to the enforcement of various minority rights, such as the right of minorities to have their official language and the recognition and enforcement of the rights of disadvantaged groups. It also protects the country’s multicultural heritage.

2.   Canada Multiculturalism Policy

Another example of Canada’s pro-immigrant stance is its Canadian Multiculturalism Policy.  Through this policy, Canada intends to preserve the cultural freedom of all individuals in the country. It also recognizes the cultural contributions of various ethnic groups to Canadian society. Through this policy, it’s able to promote cultural and religious diversity instead of allowing one single culture to define Canada. This policy has been helpful for immigrants who move into the country as it enables them to maintain their cultural heritage.

3.   Clear Pathway to Citizenship

Canada also has a pathway to citizenship for its immigrants. Temporary residents can apply to become permanent residents after spending some time in the country. The same thing applies to permanent residents who can become citizens. For permanent residents to become Canadian citizens, they must meet some requirements. This includes living in Canada for 3 out of the last five years, filing taxes, passing the citizenship test, and proving language skills.

This pathway ensures that every permanent resident in the country has a shot at citizenship and enjoys the full benefits of being Canadian if they want to. In addition, the fast pathway to Canadian citizenship means that permanent residents can become citizens with the right to political participation after 5 years of arriving in the country.

4.   Healthcare for Refugees

Further proof that Canada is friendly to immigrants is the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). These programs provide temporary and limited healthcare coverage for certain people who are normally not eligible to enjoy universal health insurance. These people include refugee claimants, protected persons including resettled refugees, and other groups. By providing limited healthcare for refugees, Canada has shown how much it cares about the well-being of this group of immigrants who usually have the least access to health services.

5.   Policy on Asylum Seekers

Canada is also relatively open towards people seeking asylum in the country. Asylum seekers come to Canada just like resettled refugees, but they don’t usually have government authorization before arriving. Asylum seekers are not criminally liable even though they enter without approval as long as they claim asylum.

An applicant for asylum might have to wait for up to 2 years before the government will grant protected status. But the country generally grants most asylum applications. In 2018, more than 60% of asylum claims were granted in Canada, far above the US, where only around 35% was granted. Most asylum seekers immediately get permanent residency. Even in some cases where the application is rejected, asylum seekers can still qualify for permanent residency under the category of Humanitarian and Other.

6.   Settlement Program

Canada also helps immigrants adjust to life in the country by providing orientation programs, social services, and skills training. The federal immigration agency spends a significant part of its budget on settlement programs for newcomers.

Policies Unfavourable to Immigrants

It’s not all policies in the country that favour immigrants. Some are worth mentioning:

1.   Non-Citizens Lack Political Participation.

One of the major issues for immigrants in Canada is that they cannot participate in the nation’s political system both at the local and national levels. Only citizens have the right to vote or contest for election. This inability to vote means that the interest of immigrants is not fully represented in government. Given that these immigrants, especially the permanent residents, pay taxes and are on the pathway to becoming citizens eventually, denying them the right to vote isn’t ideal.

2.   Lack of Labour Market Mobility

Another challenge that immigrants face in Canada is their inability to get gainful employment in some cases. This usually applies to migrants who don’t have legal documents or restricted temporary work permits. Inability to find a job ends up affecting their access to healthcare.

How do Canadians See Immigrants?

Most Canadians have a positive perception of immigrants and support the country’s immigration policies.  A 2019 poll revealed that only one-third of Canadians believe that the immigration level is too high. This shows the openness of most residents to immigrants, and this isn’t surprising. The government’s multiculturalism policy has helped make diversity part of the national identity in the country.

It’s also worth noting that Canada doesn’t have unauthorized immigration on the same scale that most countries do. The landlocked nature of the country means that it only shares land borders with the US. The very low level of unauthorized immigration means that Canadians do not see immigrants negatively, unlike most other countries.

In Conclusion

Canada’s policies for immigrants are one of the most comprehensive in the world and show the welcoming nature of the country to newcomers. The long history of immigration in the country and the government’s multiculturalism policy have helped to promote diversity. Even though there are a few issues, Canada is friendly to immigrants.

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