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Canada's Immigration Policy: The Need for Major Reform

Type: Research Studies
Date Published: September 23, 2002
Research Topics:
The federal government justifies large-scale immigration on the basis that it is essential to economic growth as well as to offset the aging of the population and the increasing proportion of retired persons to workers. These rationales, however, are not based on facts. The government's own research indicates that immigration and population increases play a role at best in economic growth. It is equally clear that only overwhelming levels of immigration would have any significant effect on reducing the aging of the population and avoiding higher dependency ratios and that there are much more practical ways of dealing with these issues than through immigration. Similarly, the government's claim that we require immigration in order to cope with an anticipated shortage of skilled workers is of questionable validity.

While Ottawa has not released any figures on the overall cost of immigration to the Canadian taxpayer, it is likely that they are high, particularly during the past two decades when the overall economic performance of newcomers has fallen significantly below that of both earlier immigrants and people born in Canada. A major reason for this decline has been the priority given to family class immigrants, none of whom is required to bring with them either marketable skills or a knowledge of one of our official languages.

The government's principal reason for promoting high immigration levels is the belief that most newcomers will vote for the Liberal Party in federal elections. This is particularly true of family class immigration, which is the least successful category in terms of economic performance and should be significantly curtailed.

In addition to the lack of economic and demographic justification for current immigration levels and priorities, there are indications of social problems arising from the difficulties many immigrants encounter in adapting to the Canadian workforce and society. The important progress Canada has made in becoming a more tolerant and welcoming country to people from all over the world will be placed at risk if we fail to bring immigration levels and priorities in line with our economic and demographic needs and absorptive capacity.

To achieve this, it will be necessary to raise public consciousness of immigration issues through informed debate and discussion. Only when Canadians are aware of the extent to which current immigration policies fail to serve the interests of the country and are prepared to demand that the government make fundamental reforms are we likely to see a significant improvement in the situation.
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