350,000 Immigrants A Year by 2021, But There’s Still Room For More
On October 31, 2018 the federal government announced that Canada would welcome 350,000 immigrants by 2021, an increase of 40,000 from 2018’s target of 310,000. That target will rise in the coming years and will include all classes of new arrivals.
By and large, these immigrants will help with skills shortages and labour market gaps throughout Canada. According to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, this sort of economic immigration is necessary, especially in those parts of the country with aging populations and worker shortages.
“This plan is making us very competitive in the global market,” commented Hussen. “It enables us to continue to be competitive, it enables us to continue to present Canada as a welcoming country and to position us to be (a leader) in skills attraction.”
While the government cannot dictate where immigrants settle, there are positive signs that the benefits of economic immigration will spread beyond major urban centres.
Bringing Economic Immigration Across Canada
Though the Minister and his department did not confirm where the government hopes to settle these immigrants, the 2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration showed that 39% of economic immigrants settled outside the major urban centres of Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec remain the most popular destinations for economic immigrants, but 2017 was a significant departure from the usual trend. For example, twenty years prior, in 1997, 90% of economic immigrants settled in those three provinces. By comparison, that number has dropped to 66%, with the rest of the country accounting for the remaining 34%.
While major urban centres remain popular with immigrants, it’s important to note that natural-born Canadians are just as likely to migrate there as well. As such, smaller communities and other regions suffer as young workers move. Provincial Nominee Programs have helped encourage immigrants to settle in areas that are not as popular with natural-born Canadians. These programs, as well as other incentives, have helped encourage immigration to these parts of the country.
Plenty of Room in Canada, Advocates Argue
While this increase is significant and welcome for many advocates, many more believe that Canada can and should welcome more immigration.
In fact, the government’s own economic advisory council even suggested Canada could increase its immigration numbers gradually to a total of 450,000 by 2025. That suggestion, back in 2016 and again in 2017, has been ignored in favour of a more moderate approach. Given the recent settlement statistics, though, it seems like Canada could easily handle 450,000. Ryerson politics professor John Shields commented that the more moderate numbers announced by the federal government are a more politically expedient option.
“It needs to be acceptable in terms of the politics of it,” said Shields. “We know that immigration is a very sensitive topic.”
But it’s clear that economic immigration holds many potential benefits for Canadians. The 2018 Annual Report notes that nearly half of all immigrants between the ages of 25 and 64 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. What’s more, immigrant children have a higher university completion rate than the children of two Canadian citizens by birth. Immigrants are highly active in Canadian society, with high volunteerism and participation in social organizations.
These people contribute heavily to Canada, supporting their community through many socioeconomic avenues. While 350,000 immigrants a year by 2021 might seem like “enough,” the fabric of Canadian society comprises all peoples from all walks of life. Back in 2016, in an address to Parliament, then-US President Barack Obama commented, “The world needs more Canada.” Why set limits on the number of people who want to be part of this country’s rich history and culture.