Come to Canada: we are open: true or false

Canada has acquired a reputation as being one of the best countries in the world. It ranks among the top countries in terms of lifestyle, safety, equality, employment and educational opportunities. It is no wonder that Canada is one of the top of mind choices for immigrants who wish to leave their country for a better life.

The image of Canada as a welcoming and open society was carefully cultivated during the early half of the last century. Its national policy of multiculturalism has attracted different immigrants from different countries around the world to live in Canada with the assurance that they can practice their cultural and religious beliefs without interference from the Canadian government.

Unfortunately, because of the current global economic crisis and the failure of multiculturalism in certain parts of Europe such as the UK and France there is a growing clamor from Canadians to reassess the open policy of the Canadian government with regard to immigration.

All these “noise” is being directed against the present conservative government that is trying to re-configure the Canadian immigration system to be responsive to the needs of Canadian business interests and its conservative supporters. The conservative government on the other hand clams that it is acting out for the best interests of Canada because it has inherited a “broken immigration system” from the previous government that has opened the immigration doors to wide and has not been too discerning in the people that it has allowed to come in. All the changes being implemented are geared, according to the Conservative government to fix the system to make it faster and more responsive to the needs of Canada and its people.

To the idea of Coming to Canada because it has an open policy, I would have to take the position that it depends on who wish to come and what kind of skills he brings along with him.

The Canadian government is mandated through it treaty obligations and its long history of providing succor to the oppressed to accept refugees and asylum seekers whose lives are threatened in their homeland.

It is also mandated to accept immigrants who have relatives or who are in a relationship with a Canadian citizen or a permanent relative in a process known as Family reunification.

The need to accept economic immigrants on the other hand is a function of the current and future requirements of the country. The main drivers for immigration are the declining birth rate and the need for skilled workers to work for the economy.

The declining birth rate is described to be alarming so much so that it is estimated that much of the growth in the population will be supplied by immigration rather than births of Canadian citizens. This declining birth rate has a very profound implication since Canada’s baby boomers are already retiring and there would be a need for more workers paying into the system to support all these retiring seniors.

The need for foreign workers in an era of high unemployment is also a contentious because it seems to be misguided. The government has countered this by stating that there is a mismatch between the jobs available and the job applicant’s skills and inclination. There are areas of the Canadian economy that have a skills and workers shortage but there are not enough qualified applicants to fill them up.

The government has implemented policies to answer these issues. In the course of doing so it has created the impression that it has been too strict and it has gone against the traditional Canadian values of fair play and compassion.

Immigration policies that have caught the ire of critics include the bumping off of FSW applicants who applied before the 2008 cutoff, the removal of interim medical benefits for refugee claimants, the legally sanctioned practice of paying temporary foreign workers with less than 15% compared to local workers and the super visa to name a few.

All these programs and policies are supposed to fix the system and to make it more responsive to actual Canadian issues. However it gives the impression that the Canadian immigration system is going the way of the UK where immigration levels are projected to come down to “tens of thousands”.

All these impressions however contradict the actual figures that that represent the actual immigration intake during the past few years. Instead of clamping down on the number of immigrants and temporary foreign workers, the government through the CIC has actually maintained its intake figures with a slight variation on certain immigration streams being noted.

The difference in the Canadian Policy compared to the British model is that it aims to attract the best and the brightest for its permanent residency program while at the same time opening its temporary foreign workers program to workers who will work in Canada but will not have an opportunity to become a permanent resident or a citizen because it is not within their contracts. It will implement these policies without cutting down on the figures because it is not burdened with the problems associated with unfettered and unlimited immigration that the UK has been complaining about.

The policy of requiring a higher language proficiency level supposedly to improve the chances of immigrants to integrate immediately to Canadian society is suspected to be a ploy to limit the immigrant source countries from most English speaking countries such as the UK, Ireland, the US, New Zealand and Australia. But looking at this in an objective and dispassionate manner it shows that the government is being sensitive to the needs and requirements of immigrants and their future employers.

Come to Canada: we are open is a statement that is true only for the best and the brightest. It is true only for immigrants who will be an asset to Canada. Poor, uneducated and criminally inclined applicants need not apply.

Tony Santiago
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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