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For Those Considering Migrating to Canada


Canada needs new immigrants

In October 2018, Canada's Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced that Canada will take in 350,000 immigrants in 2021, which is 40,000 more than it planned to admit in 2018.

This was part of the government’s updated multi-year immigration levels plan, which covers three years (2019, 2020, 2021). The target rises annually from 310,000 in 2018, counting all classes of new arrivals.

The vast majority of these newcomers are coming under economic programs designed to address skills shortages and gaps in the labour market.

Hussen says economic immigration is badly needed in areas across the country that are short on workers and long on older residents.

Many immigration advocates and economic groups, including the federal government’s own economic advisory council, have called for Canada to take in even more immigrants.

Canada Immigration Levels Plan 2020-2022

In March 2020, Canada's federal government announced its 2020-2022 Immigration Levels Plan.

Canada welcomed 320,000 newcomers in 2018, 341,000 immigrants in 2019, and its target in 2020 was 341,000 immigrants.

It is aiming to welcome an additional 351,000 in 2021, and another 361,000 in 2022. The plan provides Canada with the scope to welcome up to 390,000 immigrants in 2022.

Canada continues to increase its immigration levels to support its high living standards. The aging of its society will weaken labour force and economic growth as its fiscal costs in areas such as health care rise. Delivering quality health care to its aging population will become even more expensive. Immigration will help to grow the size of Canada’s labour force, giving Canada a steady supply of people to contribute to its economy as workers, consumers, and taxpayers.

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Canada Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023

On October 30, 2020, Canada announced its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023.

Canada will aim to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants each year to support the country's high living standards.

In 2021, the federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will target the arrival of 401,000 immigrants. In 2022, this will rise to 411,000 new permanent residents (PRs). In 2023, Canada will aim to welcome an additional 421,000 immigrants.

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Public sentiment toward immigration

Only 17 per cent of respondents say the country should accept more immigrants in 2021 than it did last year, according to a Nanos Research Group poll conducted for Bloomberg News. That suggests most Canadians are less than enthusiastic about aggressive new targets announced in October 2020.

The survey results suggest Prime Minister Trudeau’s new targets don’t enjoy widespread support. Some 40 per cent of respondents say the government should reduce the number of new permanent residents accepted in 2021 below 340,000. And 36 per cent say they would like the country to maintain the same immigration levels as 2019.

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Disruptions to immigration

In the first 11 months of 2020, Canada welcomed 174,000 immigrants.

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In December 2020, Statistics Canada released a report stating that population growth essentially stopped due to COVID-19. In March, Canada implemented restrictions on international travel to curb the spread of COVID-19. As the majority of population growth in Canada typically comes from international migration, this has had a profound impact on the country's population growth in 2020.

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The coronavirus outbreak affected immigrants

Many immigrants lost their job and were not able to support themselves financially during the coronavirus outbreak in Canada, according to a new survey.

Immigrants have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and not just in Canada but around the world. Migrants are overrepresented in essential services, and industries that have been hardest hit by coronavirus prevention measures, according to Statistics Canada.

World Education Services (WES), an educational credential assessments provider, conducted a survey to look into the economic well-being of recent migrants to Canada. The results came from 7,496 responses across three surveys conducted in April, June, and August 2020.

Findings show that many newcomers have lost their income and cannot meet their basic needs. About 14 per cent have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and 13 per cent are working reduced hours or at reduced pay. About 17 per cent have temporarily lost their primary source of income, another 6 per cent report that they have lost it permanently. One in five is having trouble affording housing, but when looking at just international students it becomes one in three. One out of 10 is having difficulty affording essentials like groceries and medicine.

More than half of those who lost their jobs or income did not benefit from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which was created to address the urgent economic needs of people who were impacted by the pandemic. About 48 per cent received the CERB or Employment Insurance and the rest did not. Permanent residents were most likely to have received the benefit.

The survey also found that many immigrants are not accessing employment or settlement help from social service agencies. Many permanent residents and temporary workers are not interested in contacting these services. Nearly half of international students and temporary workers do not think they are eligible for services. About 19 per cent of permanent residents have contacted an agency, and about 12 per cent would but they do not know how.

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Disadvantages to living in Canada

Three well-known disadvantages to living in Canada are its relatively high personal income tax rates, its high cost of living and its bad weather. These are often the reasons why immigrants eventually leave Canada.

High Personal Taxes

According to a Fraser Institute study, Canada’s personal income tax rates are decidedly uncompetitive compared to those in the United States. Canada also competes with other industrialized countries for highly skilled workers and investment. To measure the competitiveness of Canada’s top tax rates, the study compares the combined top statutory marginal income tax rates with rates in 36 industrialized countries. In 2018 Canada had the 7th highest combined top tax rate out of 36 countries. The federal change to the top rate in 2016 has markedly worsened Canada’s competitive position. For instance, Canada had the 13th highest combined tax rate in 2014, before the changes in the federal top rate.

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High cost of living

In Canada, household expenses can total as much as half of your net salary. In Ontario, for example, average household expenses in 2016 totaled CAN$88,953 a year, of which approximately CAN$20,434 was for housing, CAN$15,627 for taxes, CAN$12,347 for transportation, CAN$8,747 for food and CAN$2,258 for education. In addition to essential expenses like housing, food and clothes (including added costs during winter), you’ll need to budget for things like certain health and insurance fees, personal care and furniture.

The cost of electricity varies by province, and Ontarians pay some of the highest rates. According to a report by the Fraser Institute, which used data from Statistics Canada, residential costs in Ontario rose 71% between 2008 and 2016. In the same period, the average across Canada rose by 34%.

From the data in 2016, residential electricity bills were 17.81¢/kWh in Toronto and 16.15¢/kWh in Ottawa. While these numbers are lower than cities like San Francisco at 31.05¢/kWh and New York at 29.52¢/kWh, they are double those in other Canadian cities like Montreal or Winnipeg, both averaging 8.43¢/kWh. Depending on the part of the world you’re moving from, Canada’s rates can be higher or lower than what you’re used to. In India, for instance, electricity averages around 10¢/kWh, whereas in the Philippines, around 21¢/kWh (both in Canadian dollars).

Telecommunication costs in Canada (cell phone, Internet, cable or satellite) are also more expensive compared to many other countries.

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Bad weather: hot summers, freezing winters and often unpredictable

Because of its great latitudinal extent, Canada has a wide variety of climates. Ocean currents play an important role, with both the warm waters of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and the Alaska Current in the Pacific affecting climate. Westerly winds, blowing from the sea to the land, are the prevailing air currents in the Pacific and bring coastal British Columbia heavy precipitation and moderate winter and summer temperatures. Inland, the Great Lakes moderate the weather in both southern Ontario and Quebec. In the east the cold Labrador Current meets the Gulf Stream along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, cooling the air and causing frequent fog.

The northern two-thirds of the country has a climate similar to that of northern Scandinavia, with very cold winters and short, cool summers. The central southern area of the interior plains has a typical continental climate—very cold winters, hot summers, and relatively sparse precipitation. Southern Ontario and Quebec have a climate with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters, similar to that of some portions of the American Midwest. Except for the west coast, all of Canada has a winter season with average temperatures below freezing and with continuous snow cover.

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Temperature in Canada vary widely from region to region. Winters can be harsh in many parts of the country, particularly in the interior and Prairie provinces, which experience a continental climate, where daily average temperatures are near −15 °C (5 °F), but can drop below −40 °C (−40 °F) with severe wind chills. In non-coastal regions, snow can cover the ground for almost six months of the year, while in parts of the north snow can persist year-round. Coastal British Columbia has a temperate climate, with a mild and rainy winter. On the east and west coasts, average high temperatures are generally in the low 20s °C (70s °F), while between the coasts, the average summer high temperature ranges from 25 to 30 °C (77 to 86 °F), with temperatures in some interior locations occasionally exceeding 40 °C (104 °F).

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More stuff to think about

Are you outgoing, do you have the initiative to network and find support when you need it? Do you have a positive attitude, naturally open-minded? Can you handle risk? Are you resilient and determined? If you do, then you may have a good chance at settling successfully in your adopted home.

There will be lots to learn quickly when you relocate to a new country. You will need to be patient with yourself, and forgiving, because you will make mistakes, even fail a few times. Adapting to a new country is a slow process. It may take at least 10 years to fully understand if you made the right choice.

You may experience culture shock. Canada is a unique multicultural mix of people from all over the world. The dominant culture and social customs are influenced by a blend of mostly American, British and to a lesser extent French in certain regions.

Canadians value safety, peace, respect, tolerance and being polite. Read more

However, the work environment in Canada can be stressful. Workloads keep increasing. And no one is immune to job uncertainty. Read more

The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated stress levels. A recent research report stated that Canada ranked third in the world for the levels of stress, anxiety and sadness its adult citizens have felt over the course of the pandemic. Read more

The land is vast but the population density is low. And because the weather can be unpredictable, people stay indoor most of the time. So it's easy to feel isolated. Which means getting involved in activities is highly important.

The more you read and research in advance the better you can prepare yourself especially when things go wrong or don't work out as expected.

An August 2017 article Canada struggling to 'absorb' immigrants, internal report says highlighted the findings of an Immigration department in-house report. The report essentially stated that the "absorptive capacity" of Canada is going down. It showed that integration of immigrants into Canada, despite relative success compared to most countries, is faltering ­– in regards to housing, jobs, health care, education, religious tensions, ethnic enclaves and transit.

The report also stated that second-generation visible minority immigrants, compared to first-generation immigrants, are more likely to "perceive" they’ve been subject to discrimination. Poll results suggesting 43 per cent of Canada’s second-generation visible minority citizens are convinced they’re being treated unfairly may point to an expanding crack in the dream of cultural integration.

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Immigration is a political decision

The difficult decision of identifying how many newcomers Canada will welcome each year is shaped by six major factors:

  • Demographics and economics
  • Canada’s policy goals
  • Global circumstances
  • Canada’s integration capacity
  • Canada’s processing capacity
  • Politics

Demographics and economics
Welcoming immigrants to Canada is an economic necessity due to the country’s demographic circumstances. Canada has one of the world’s oldest populations and one of the world’s lowest birth rates. Consequently, Canada needs to welcome immigrants to promote demographic and labour force growth, which is absolutely critical to sustaining economic growth.

Other countries may not need immigrants because they have younger populations and higher birth rates, but Canada, on the other hand, would see its high living standards take a hit in the absence of immigration.

Policy goals
Canada welcomes immigrants for three major reasons: to grow its economy, reunite families, and help refugees. Hence, immigration levels are always shaped with these goals in mind, and in fact, Canada goes to great lengths to fulfil these goals, as it welcomes some 40 per cent of its immigrants under the family and refugee classes each year.

Global circumstances
Tied into the previous factor is the matter of how Canada should respond to global circumstances. In assessing its economic class policies, Canada has to be sure there is enough global demand from potential immigrants to want to move to this country. In addition, as a member of the international community, Canada has an obligation to assist when humanitarian crises occur.

This may result in Canada taking short-term measures to adjust its immigration levels and which categories immigrants arrive under. Most recently, this occurred when Canada decided to increase its levels and refugee intake back in 2015-16 when the government opted to welcome more Syrian refugees.

Canada’s integration capacity
The federal government must have the confidence that the country’s economic conditions are sound enough for newcomers to be able to integrate into the labour market. In addition, it needs to ensure resources are in place nationally such as adequate immigrant settlement supports (e.g., language and job training), affordable housing, health care services, and public transportation that can help to support a larger population.

Canada’s processing capacity
Given that global demand to move to Canada far exceeds the country’s supply of immigration spots, the federal government must be mindful of its capacity to process immigration applications as quickly as possible. Even if the country wanted to welcome higher levels of immigration, it might not yet have the processing capacity in place to do so.

Canada has improved its processing capacity in recent years by implementing the Express Entry application management system, however, it still processes many immigration applications via paper, which is slower, and requires significant staffing resources.

Politics: the most influential factor
At the end of the day, the level of immigration chosen by the government is a political decision.

No matter what the economic justification is, or how the public feels, the government of the day mainly chooses immigration levels based on how it feels the decision may impact them coming election time.

This means that immigration levels can be kept low, even during times when Canada needs more immigrants. This is currently happening in Quebec (which is the only province or territory in Canada that can control its immigration levels). Quebec needs much higher immigration, but its current government has made the decision that it is in its best political interests to keep the province’s intake low.

Similarly, the current federal government could perhaps justify increasing Canada’s levels more rapidly, given the country’s low unemployment rate at the moment. However, they may have made the decision to slowly increase levels to potentially avoid a negative reaction from the public.

Of these six factors, politics is undoubtedly the most influential one in shaping the immigration direction that Canada chooses to take.


Christmas sound and light show on Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Christmas sound and light show on Parliament Hill, Ottawa

01-Feb-2022 opinion article

"Our system is setting immigrants and Canadians up for failure" by Eduardo Queiruga

I am a newcomer settlement worker, who has worked with immigrants for 20 years. I decided to write this out of a sense of frustration. Our recent economic class newcomers are not doing well.

My job as a settlement worker is to help integrate newcomers. In order to assist them, my tool box consists of the services we have available in the community. Well, my tool box is almost empty. I feel less and less able to help.

There is little to no affordable housing available for them. The social housing waiting list is about three to seven years long. Many of the jobs available are low paying with few benefits.

In the rural area where I currently work, there is no public transportation and no English as a second language school. The poor integration results of economic class immigrants are not limited to rural areas, however.

Recent economic class newcomers are doing poorly throughout Ontario and Canada. The situation of immigrants is becoming increasingly worse. Not just economic integration problems, such as the inability to save money, but social integration.

My sense of urgency reflects the feeling newcomers are transmitting to me. Some immigrants tell me they are being squeezed like a lemon by unscrupulous employers and/or are victims of fraud. This practice of preying on immigrants is also increasing.

In spite of this situation, the federal government wants to bring in record high levels of immigrants this year and next. One reason for this, I think, is that some corporate groups in our community benefit from more immigration and they are influencing immigration policy.

From what I see on the ground, it doesn’t make sense to bring in more economic class immigrants into the country to compete with the recently arrived immigrants who are struggling. I don’t see the point.

Why don’t we work to improve lives of immigrants already here and then look at bringing in more? Why don’t we look at creating more employment opportunities and building more infrastructure to absorb and accommodate the immigrants who are already here? I think this is a reasonable question to ask. We are putting the cart before the horse.

The government pays me to settle and integrate immigrants. At the same time, it doesn’t give me the tools to do it. Shouldn’t we be building capacity and infrastructure to accommodate more immigrants before we allow them in?

We run the risk of creating a crisis by ignoring this situation and allow corporations, and other stakeholders, to influence government policy and bring in yet more immigrants without improving the lives of those already here. By not building the infrastructure (housing, good paying jobs) we create the conditions for social dislocation; not just for newcomers, but for local populations as well. They are also not doing well and are competing for same employment opportunities with newcomers.

Business groups say we have a shortage of workers in this country. This is not what I am seeing. I think if there was a serious shortage of workers, then we would see a rise in wages. This is not happening across sectors.

The government can increase immigration and help corporations — and a small minority who benefit from using immigrants — or we can pause and review this policy. Governments have to do what is right by immigrants and Canadian workers, not just listen to business groups.

It is about time our government also listens to the people working with immigrants on the ground and the front lines. If we don’t, we will continue to set immigrants up for failure and see front-line settlement workers like me try to pick up the pieces but without the resources to do so.


Further Reading

Immigration and citizenship, Government of Canada

Average Cost of Living in Canada by Province – 2021 Report

How Canada learned what’s wrong with its immigration system – by slamming its borders shut

The Liberals' unsustainable immigration plan

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