Does Canada already have a Trumpian immigration policy?

It’s not just immigration supporters who look to Canada as an example. Immigration opponents also see this country as an example of immigration done right.

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)

Canadians like to be noticed, and as immigration has become a key issue in the world, people are increasingly noticing Canada as an example of a country that does it right. Even before Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency on a platform of immigration restriction, American commentators were urging their compatriots to be more like Canada: even though 20 per cent of the population is foreign-born, a much higher percentage than most Western countries, most Canadians view immigration as beneficial to the country. So-called “Canadian exceptionalism” over immigration and multiculturalism is starting to spread around the world, as more observers agree that we really do accomplish these things better than anyone else.

“Canada is the least xenophobic country in the Western world,” ran the headline of an article on Vox, where Canadians were described as “by far the most open to and optimistic about immigration” and “the only real outlier” to the current trend toward nativism. “Canada should be a role model,” Fareed Zakaria declared in the Washington Post late last year, praising the country for its “smart policies” on immigration and “strong assimilation.” Canadians have been happy to accept this praise and to celebrate Canada as an antidote to more fractious Western countries; Ahmed Hussen, Prime Minister Trudeau’s new minister of immigration, told the press on his appointment: “I am extremely proud of our country’s history as a place of asylum, a place that opens its doors and hearts to new immigrants and refugees.” The global unrest over immigration could prove to be a form of free advertising for Canada.

But there’s something that complicates the picture of Canada as the friendliest country on Earth: it’s not just immigration supporters who have been looking to us as an example. Immigration opponents also like to point to Canada as an example of immigration done right—and at least one of those fans may be in the Trump administration. After the U.S. election, the Washington Post talked to an anonymous Trump aide who “cited as a model Canada’s system of awarding points to immigrants based on education, job skills, language proficiency, age and other criteria,” as opposed to the U.S. system’s emphasis on reunifying families.

Canada’s emphasis on high-skilled immigration, and its relatively easy entry for people who already have jobs lined up in the country, may make it harder to stereotype immigrants as not contributing to society. That could be why Canada is celebrated not just by immigration liberals, but conservatives who want a moderate regime of immigration restriction. Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week’s conservative columnist, called for U.S. states to “imitate Canada’s provinces in making known the kinds of workers or employment that are in demand.” F.H. Buckley, a Canadian-born U.S. law professor who supported Trump, wrote an article calling for the president-elect to look to Canada, particularly the way Canadian immigration levels are “tailored to the needs of different industries in different parts of the country.” It could be that one reason Canada hasn’t had a Trump-style immigration revolt is that we already have a moderately Trumpian immigration system.

It may sound strange that Canada could simultaneously inspire people who want more immigration and those who want less. No doubt part of Canada’s relative comfort with immigration is connected to the fact that we have significant geographical and political differences to begin with. Unlike the U.S., Canada doesn’t have high levels of unauthorized immigration, in large part because it doesn’t share a border with a much poorer country. The Wall Street Journal published a long piece called “How Canada got immigration right,” but it waited until near the end of the article to point out that only six per cent of Canadian immigrants are unauthorized, compared to around one-third of U.S. immigrants, which means that the U.S. couldn’t have Canada’s exact immigration system even if it wanted to. Likewise, Canada has more control over migration than countries that are part of the European Union. As a result, Canada is insulated from Trump-like demagoguery against illegal border crossings, or a movement like Brexit. Still, it seems likely that if those other countries had Canada’s system, the nativist movements wouldn’t have gotten any momentum.

That doesn’t mean Canadians shouldn’t feel justifiable pride in avoiding the troubles other countries have had—at least, avoiding them so far. It just means Canada’s success might not be solely due to our superior tolerance. It’s still pretty hard to move to Canada—and that may be one of the reasons so many people in the U.S. and U.K. are starting to wish they could.


Does Canada already have a Trumpian immigration policy?

  1. Canada’s immigration is excessive. An honest discussion of this topic is not permitted in the media, which treat anything other than wholesale support of social transformation as morally reprehensible. Canada’s immigration policy has not truly reflected the views of the majority of Canadians since the 1960’s. Since elections are not based on single topics in isolation, the public has never had a clear opportunity to correct this. Now that the demographic shift has proceeded so far, and is accelerating under Trudeau Junior to finish his father’s work, Canada is nearly at the point of the issue being settled once and for all. Canada as a country populated largely by people of European ancestry will be an historical footnote.

    • Canada’s current immigration policy is, indeed, essential. Census after census (after census) has indicated Canadians are not reproducing at a rate required to cover aging citizens as they exit the workplace, etc. Hence: Canada’s particular position on immigration.

      What *is* still an issue, however, is allowing immigrants to hold vital positions (i.e. health related fields essential for aging Canadians). We all know that this, sadly, is still a problem. We need to somehow balance Canada’s stringent specialized field requirements with the unfortunate reality of too many immigrants becoming underemployed once they attain permanent residency.

    • ” Canada as a country populated largely by people of European ancestry will be an historical footnote.” – when will the old stock Canadians meme die? It seems that Canada originally was a country largely populated by people of a mostly non-European ancestry: of the several aboriginal genetic groups in North American only two seem to have an ancient European origin. Following that there was some sporadic additions of east Asian people. Finally in the last millennium European adventurers began to appear in small numbers but more as temporary rather than permanent residents. Then for a few centuries as colonialism became established a predominantly but not entirely European population became established – in addition to Europeans significant cohorts of Asians and Africans arrived. The era where people of European ancestry were in the majority is only a brief 1-1/2 centuries. There are many footnotes in history: too bad a lot of them are white supremacist propaganda. The brief colonial history of Canada is a thing of the past; glorifying it is an insult to many Canadians even those of European ancestry but not of the historical colonial powers.
      Mathematically, if sources of immigration were uniformly distributed over the globe, the artifact of Euro predominance would never have arisen. To the extent that we accept a less prejudicial and more democratic approach, we will experience a shift in demographics towards the global average.

      • – “Good news, everybody! We’ve decided white supremacy and colonialism should end.”

        ~ “Oh, so you’re giving your land back to the First Nations?”

        – “What? No, you idiot, we’re going to have ‘immigration uniformly distributed over the globe’ until we have a ‘shift in demographics to the local average.'”

        ~ “So basically the British empire, except instead of conquering the world you just conquer one big country and then import the world. Isn’t that just what rich white liberals want anyway?”

        – “Shut up.”

        • ‘to the local average’ should of course read ‘toward the global average,’ I apologize for misquoting Geraldr’s horrible idea.

    • We are more racist than Americans in our immigration policies. Although over 21% of the country is an immigrate almost none are black or Latino or Hispanic. Even for unskilled TFWs they targeted the Philippians not Jamaica or Mexico — both much closer to the USA. There is outright racism. And possibly an attempt to get more single Flipino women in a country that already has too many women (because of immigration) and where relationship work only in favor of white men. There are simply not enough white men to go around. So women over 40 are losing their life partners and 60 year old men are ‘seeing’ 30 year old Asian or Filipino women. Which might be okay if there were some taller African, Caribbean or South Americans men for Canadian born women to turn to. But there are not so they end up staying single. The average age is over 40. Immigrants tend to be younger – so Canadian born women will become retirees with one income, no pension plan, a little savings (more single mothers than ever — fewer years to concentrate on work). The only winners here are white men over 50 who get bragging rights over having a younger woman — albeit unskilled and uneducated and large numbers are prostitutes in massage parlors and/or looking for PR status via marriage. Or those men who don’t lose their assets in the next divorce.

      Society doesn’t benefit. These couples don’t have children. If you want to raise the numbers of people in Canada — get Africans and South Americans and Indians. They have big families.

  2. It should be hard to immigrate here. You have to have some value to our country for us to let you in. I think our system works pretty well. The only way multiculturalism can possibly work is if you have the best and brightest of different cultures all working together, all with some skin in the game. When you just open your borders and let any trash in, you have problems like Germany for example is having right now. I hope that Trudeau doesn’t mess with the system to import more Liberal voters.