Canada’s immigration system is no kinder than America's -

Canada’s immigration system is no kinder than America’s

Opinion: Despite the Liberals’ boasts of its humanitarian credentials, Canada’s refugee intake numbers reveal something else

A Canadian Border Services agent walks past a welcoming sign at Gate 521 at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. (Darren Calabrese/CP)

A Canadian Border Services agent walks past a welcoming sign at Gate 521 at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. (Darren Calabrese/CP)

More than four decades ago, my father applied for immigration to Canada. Then, like today, the process in place, instituted in 1967, was based on a points system that measured a person’s ability to integrate into Canadian society, both economically and socially. It was revolutionary for its time, putting aside racist biases preferential to “white” immigrants while assessing a prospective immigrants’ skills regardless of where they came from.

It was logical. It was calculated. What it was not was humanitarian.

My father, in the early 1970s, passed the points system. But today, he would not. Despite his excellent English, a master’s degree in economics, and years of experience in banking, he would not be welcome according to the Express Entry online assessment tool at the Immigration and Citizenship website. Certainly, the logic of that decision would make sense: Canada does not need more bankers. But at the same time it is cold-hearted.

Today, immigration under Canada’s skilled worker point system is not much different. By every account, it is a cold calculation based on domestic economic requirements with little consideration for humanitarianism. Like the proposed RAISE Act in the U.S., it sets the bar for Canada’s needs and then determines if a person meets them.

And yet, the Liberal government endlessly props up its humanitarian credentials. From gender rights to refugee policy, it has tried to project itself as a world leader and Canada as an immigrants’ wonderland. No doubt, Canadians do have something to be proud of: Canada is proving to the world that a diverse society can also be a harmonious society.

But that harmony is engineered. When you look more closely at the statistics, Canada is nowhere near the humanitarian ideal it claims to uphold.

The question is: how do we measure humanitarianism?

MORE: One day in seven towns dealing with refugees on the U.S.-Canada border

Firstly, we can eliminate the “economic” category of immigrants, representing 57.5 per cent of the 300,000 Canada plans to welcome this year, according Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s 2017 Immigration Levels Plan. As was the case with my father, cherrypicking immigrants based on what Canada needs may be prudent, but it is not humanitarian.

That leaves three categories—family reunification, refugees, and a vaguely defined “humanitarian and other” category. The family reunification category may appear humanitarian on the surface but it requires the family member living in Canada to provide for the basic needs of the incoming family members. It’s nice, but still not humanitarian. And it will only account for 28 per cent of immigrants this year.

In purely humanitarian terms, refugees and the “other” categories offer the best measure how big Canada’s heart really is. At a measly 1.3 per cent, we can drop the “other” category as statistically insignificant, leaving 13.3 per cent, or 40,000 spots, for refugees who will be resettled to Canada. That compares favourably to the U.S in terms of refugee resettlement as a percentage of total population—0.13 per cent, compared to America’s 0.03 per cent. By this number, Canada also seemingly compares well to other industrialized nations.

But refugee resettlement figures are misleading. They only represent the official number of refugees registered by the United Nations who are approved for resettlement in third countries. They do not include refugees who arrive in countries on their own, through irregular migration routes.

This is crucial. By dint of geography, Canada is perhaps the least accessible country in the world, meaning that while more people are trying to get here than ever before, very few actually overcome the oceans and the Arctic. Even the surge in asylum seekers who have crossed the border illegally from the U.S. this year—4,375 in the first six months alone—is minuscule compared to the millions of irregular migrants Europe has taken in since 2015. So when you account for refugees who arrive on their own, Canada’s supposed humanitarianism starts to look pretty abysmal.

Given this, let’s compare Canada to Germany, which only accepted 800 refugees through the UNHCR’s resettlement program in 2016. But over the last year, 280,000 asylum seekers arrived in the country. Not all of those will be accepted, of course, but with an average acceptance rate of around 37 per cent, 103,600 will be; another 23 per cent, or 64,400, will be granted some sort of protection, allowing them to stay in Germany. That brings the total refugee intake for 2016 up to 0.20 per cent of the German population.

Even Sweden beats Canada. For a small country with a population of less than 10 million, its 2016 quota of 1,900 resettled refugees, while small compared to Canada, put Germany to shame. But the Swedes also granted asylum to another 67,258 irregular migrants, raising their total refugee intake as a percentage of population to 0.70—more than six times the number Canada accepted last year.

MORE: A refugee flood? Pull yourself together, Canada

Globally, the total refugee population has reached unprecedented numbers, more than doubling to over 22 million between 2012 and 2016. Canada’s record-setting refugee resettlement numbers from last year—46,700 in total, a figure the Liberals love to boast about—look less impressive given the context. The previous record, 40,271, was set in 1980 when the total number of refugees worldwide was 8.45 million.

Most experts agree that refugee numbers are set to rise for the foreseeable future, and without a truly humanitarian turn, the world faces the prospect of a tragedy of epic proportions. The Trump administration’s protectionist policies and rhetoric of fear and hate only fan the flames. Canada, however, is not doing much better. Its immigration policy no doubt benefits Canadian businesses and boosts the economy, but on a humanitarian scale, it falls flat.

The difference, however, is this: Trump never pretended to be a nice guy. From the beginning, he made no bones about putting U.S. interests ahead of humanitarianism. The Liberal Party, meanwhile, has staked its reputation on creating an image of a kinder, gentler Canada, a Canada willing to take on the world’s most pressing issues with a focus on humanitarianism. But its policies—from trade to immigration—belie a Canada First mentality. It is, in practice, Trump-lite.

If Canada truly wants to be the proverbial heart in today’s heartless world, it’s time for the Liberals to put up or shut up.



Canada’s immigration system is no kinder than America’s

  1. While I agree with a lot of the arguments in this article I think we have to think about Canada’s best interest. We can do both, be humanitarian by giving refugees asylum, but also make sure the newcomers can integrate fully and successfully into the culture. Otherwise we’ll end up with the same problems Europe has now with out of control refugee issues. We can do both, and not only look after the interest of others but our own, nothing wrong with that in my view.

  2. I agree, I came in the mid seventies from the UK and within two weeks was working as a therapist in a rehab centre. Of course Canada should look for the workers it needs and can employ.
    I think Canada should support efforts to provide a better life in those countries that migrants are leaving from and help them stay home. Bringing thousands of people into a completely different culture for which most are ill prepared, is not the answer.

    • Those migrants and refugees as well as the children they bare are expected to be the taxpayers of tmrw. Just spending money on foreign aid to countries is a waste because Canada gets no return on investment except maybe some brownie points on the humanitarian scale.

  3. Along with the 60,000 Haitians that recently lost temporary protected status in the US, 86,000 Hondurans will lose it in January and 260,000 El Salvadorans in March (1). If Canada applies significantly relaxed criteria when evaluating the Haitians for acceptance or takes too long in adjudicating their cases, we should reasonably expect to see a very large number of Hondurans and El Salvadorans applying for refugee status when their temporary US status is removed, not to mention more Haitians.

    IMO the reasonable thing for Canada to do would be to retain current criteria and throw whatever resources are required into the system in order to quickly settle cases. Anything other than a speedy and fair hearing is detrimental to the integrity of the process. It will indeed be interesting to see what Trudeau’s government does.

    (1) See: h$$p://

    • You seem to saying that we should be preparing to accept more of 406,000 Haitians, and Hondurans, El Salvadorians next year. Isn’t it time to remind everyone (Canadians and immigrants) that Canada doesn’t have any money for illegal migrants. It doesn’t have, in fact, any money for anything.

      Meaning; it only has taxation revenues from tax-paying citizens from their life-time employment etc. If only our P.M. knew that.

      Mr. Khan’s belief that immigrants on social welfare should be permitted to sponsor their ‘families’, who will also expect social welfare, isn’t humanitarian it is hogwash.

      • Canada’s supply management system on agriculture is a bigger boondoggle that costs taxpayers billions more than the current resettlement costs of thousands of refugees. Why don’t Conservatives fix that problem first. Despite popular disbelief the majority of resettled refugees actually become contributing members of society who pay taxes and give birth to children in a country with a declining birth rate and aging population.

  4. 1. To deal with the influx of people I am sure our government will have to hire new people and how qualified are those new immigration staff going to be?
    2. If we are eventually going to house 60,000 refugees who is going to pay for their food and accommodations? Quebec has insisted they have their own immigration and I doubt they will be willing to pay for Ottawa’s mistake.
    3.Winter is coming and the temporary housing is going to have to be moved to a brick and mortar location with heat.
    4.The fact that these people come from a poverty stricken country I don’t think is grounds for giving them refugee status.
    5.Why does our government have a need to show how humane we are and the Americans are not? That seems pretty hostile towards our neighbours to me.

  5. The article mostly confirms what I suspected, but my opinion is that the difference for the immigration process in Canada from other countries, doesn’t lay on the goverment part but on the society, so far. Few places on earth would accept to be a minority in their own country ( if you consider native people those who have been living here for more than two generations), and be still so nice to newcomers. The reason for that, it is possible coming from the idea that every person who lands in Canada has something to offer to the country, and will have something in return. That puts a lot of preassure on how many people you let in and how they fit.

    I never expected the canadian-being-so-nice-to-me to be completely uninterested, and don’t judge it. I don’t need anybody to be a saint, just a good person.

  6. There is a difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker. A refugee is identified by the government through vetting and resettled in Canada like the 25K Syrians. Or they legally apply as refugees at a port of entry either by flight, sea, border crossing and etc. Asylum seekers are those illegally crossing the U.S border than getting a case hearing to gain refugee status. If they are rejected they are either deported back to the U.S or their country of origin at the taxpayer’s expense same for legal refugee claimants. I think the current rules are working to an extent. Yes it would be nice to protect our border but I don’t think the Liberals like the optics of having military guarding the border and sending back asylum-seekers to the U.S similar to what is happening in Europe.

  7. Canada has a demographic crisis because in 2016 – there were more people over the age of 65 than children under 14. First time ever and immigration helps solves this imbalance. However, the immigration that takes place should not be an increase in current immigrant classes including refugees. It should be an increase in international students. Education and Employment is the fastest way for immigrants to integrate in any society regardless of country. Canada as a nation should become the global capital for international students. Canada should award permanent residency to any international student who successfully completes a university degree, a college program or an apprenticeship that leads to a job in an employment area of need in Canada. These new permanent residents should not get any time served during their studies towards citizenship but should maintain gainful employment and be a taxpayer in most cases till they gain their citizenship on the current clock post graduation and likely well beyond it. These young graduates will help solve the imbalance by getting jobs and starting families as oppose to relying on welfare or going years without learning english. International students also do not get their education subsidized by current Canadians so their fees are much higher.

    • I would like to point out, Stevez, that even foreign born people who come here to study and then become doctors can sometimes not have a good grasp of the English language. And it is a shame that just because they have money they can do that, even though their heart is not here. it is often elsewhere. Or if it is here, it is still under the influences of biases from their upbringing, some of which are to do with how women should be treated, what to do with widows and single older women, or women who have few resources.

      • That’s very true Sue, and reflects badly on humanity … but it is humanity.

        • Because
          I don’t know what you mean.

    • A good idea … are you a foreign student? ;-)

      • Nope but many of my co-workers were. International students don’t go on welfare like a lot of refugees they have financial resources overseas. Also the mistreatment of women can apply to anyone not just immigrants – domestic violence is more prevalent in Canada and us than most of Europe. Also an international student who completes an arts degree and works as a cashier at walmart is a better contribution to Canada than a family that does not learn english with any effort and relies on welfare, child benefits and old age security.

  8. Unlike the selfish bastards from California and Paris ( not Pitsburg ), we have 6 months of real winter.
    Our country is not the best equipped to accept refugees. The refugee cost settlement is much higher here than in many other countries. So, when we try to measure how hearty our country is, I think we should also factor in the challenges we have to overcome.

  9. This author likes to quote numbers but not percentages. If Canada keeps going the way it has, people from foreign cultures (meaning not European, generally) will outnumber the traditional folk who made up Canada for the most part, and of course, not to forget indigenous peoples. It’s cold-hearted enough for our gov’t to be in denial that increasing numbers of immigrants does take away jobs from Canadians. Of course Mr Khan sees it another way. I just wish he wold take into account the sizes of our countries – Canada and his homeland and the homeland of other Asian and middle-eastern immigrants and refugees.

    It is regrettable that those of us who speak out about the harm for the future that too many foreign influences may bring (just ask the indigenous people) may be seen as having some kind of irrational fear of foreign cultures. I wish instead that they try to see it from our point of view. Yes, Canada is a big country. So why are there so many in London, Toronto, and Vancouver.

  10. Khan writes:
    “we can drop the “other” category as statistically insignificant, leaving 13.3 per cent, or 40,000 spots, for refugees who will be resettled to Canada. That compares favourably to the U.S in terms of refugee resettlement as a percentage of total population—0.13 per cent, ”

    Shouldn’t that be 47,000 spots? 36,300,000 x 13?

    And how many legal refugees does that make it for the US, at 0.13%?

    323,000,000 x .13 = 42 million

    Is that right?
    I agree. Our population is small, comparatively speaking. But I don’t think Canada should rush into increasing the population at the risk of giving away our culture to more powerful groups from other highly populated countries. eg India: 1.32 billion. 1,320,000,000

  11. It occurs to me that another solution could be to mandate that all immigrants requiring social welfare must locate to the North West Territories for a period of three years.

    I guess that someone will accuse me of being inhuman … but it’s not inhuman to leave our indigenous peoples there.

  12. I am an American reader in Florida who works in social work for the State. I deal with families like this all the time. My parents were Cuban refugees who fled in 1960 so I am able to comment from a unique perspective. If one looks at either the U.S. or Canada one see’s immigrant populations where the majority is living in poverty or in ” near ” poverty which as a practical matter is poverty. The cost of maintaining these families in humble circumstances would buy them a high life either in the countries where they are from or in the case of Syrian refugees in Algiers, Cairo, Casablanca, or a host of other so called middle income countries where $3000 Canadian dollars buys the refugee family a Montreal style upper middle class life. Private schools for the children, a girl to clean the house 3 times per week, a 8 yr old Mercedes or BMW. I think Prime Minister Trudeau’s welcome of the refugees when Trump kicked them to the curve was an inspiration to the world but Ottawa needs to stop and look at where it is spending it’s resources. I believe the UN should create a voucher system to deal with refugees. Rich nations would pay money into such a fund. Safe middle income countries would pledge 2-5 yr VISAs for refugees with a UN voucher. Sadly for Americans, Canada or some other developed nation will have to propose such a system, Trump got elected because he was willing to at least admit we have an immigration system that has over flooded America with too many while the Democrats were cowering in the corner in timidity in fear they would be branded bigots or nativists and the result is going to be an unstable world for the next 4 yrs. It already feels like he has been in office for 7.