Around the globe, Canada’s immigration and integration policy is seen as a shining example of best practice. Ferdinand Mirbach, Senior Expert Immigration Society at Robert Bosch Stiftung, traveled to Canada to discover just what makes the country stand out in its approach to immigration.
Where to start to gain an understanding of Canada as a country that does immigration right?
With its geography and history. Canada is surrounded by water on three sides, its only land border shared with the United States. There, bilateral agreements make irregular border crossings rare. Its unique geography means regular entry is more or less only possible by air, which gives the Canadian authorities almost total control over immigration. At the same time, Canada sees immigration as a core part of its historical DNA and has relied on immigration to flourish from day one. Canada would not have seen its gradual transformation into the contemporary, post-industrial nation it is today without this steady influx of people from all over the world. Indeed Canada’s dependency on immigration will only increase if it is to remain a successful nation and maintain the standard of living to which its citizens have become so accustomed.
What do Canada’s immigration system and measures to foster integration actually look like?
Generally speaking, there are four main paths people can follow to move to Canada: skilled immigration, temporary work permits, family reunification, or refugee programs. The first pathway, skilled immigration, is particularly encouraged and works on the basis of a points system that rewards language skills, educational achievements, and work experience, as well as requiring an existing job offer.
In 2019, more than 340,000 immigrants were granted permanent residency in Canada, approximately one percent of the country’s total population.
The government-funded civil society Immigration and Settlement Services is broadly responsible for providing the necessary support for those immigrating to Canada. In addition, a total of more than 700 organizations nationwide offer language courses, labor market advice, or other social services, including assistance in finding housing, and are a central building block in ensuring the successful inclusion of new immigrants in Canadian society.
“Pluralism and the acceptance of diversity are part of how Canadians conceptualize their homeland. Here everyone is allowed to be themselves and to belong.”
Not only does Canada attract high numbers of immigrants, but it also retains them. What is it that makes the country so successful at including immigrants in society?
A number of building blocks lay the groundwork for Canada’s successful integration policy, the first being public opinion, which is clearly pro-immigration. In 2018, 80 percent of the Canadian population said that immigration had a positive impact on the economy. Indeed studies attest to Canadians’ liberal tendencies, with pluralism and the acceptance of diversity part of how they conceptualize their homeland. Here everyone is allowed to be themselves and to belong.
A further building block is the relative ease with which immigrants can acquire citizenship. Those with a permanent residence permit are eligible for Canadian citizenship after just three years, and dual citizenship is also often possible.
Last but by no means least, Canada conceptualizes inclusion beyond just citizenship and rather as genuine social participation. Immigrants should feel they are a wanted, important, and even integral part of the Canadian population, and both the state and civil society employ a range of measures that underline their commitment to making this a reality. It is this aspect of Canada’s policy of inclusion that represents the Canadian recipe for success. To my mind, this, creating a real sense of belonging, is what needs to play a far greater role in other immigration societies.