Canada slips out of top-five countries in integrating immigrants

posted on May 27, 2015

By Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star | Link to Article

Canada has dropped out of the top five nations when it comes to integrating immigrants, due to policy changes by Ottawa that restrict family reunification and citizenship.

By Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star | Link to Article

Canada has dropped out of the top five nations when it comes to integrating immigrants, due to policy changes by Ottawa that restrict family reunification and citizenship.

According to the latest world ranking by a Brussels-based think tank, Canada has slipped from third to sixth place among 38 developed countries in providing migrants access to equal rights, support and opportunity.

Although Canada is still considered a welcoming country for newcomers, amid a global tide of anti-immigrant and anti-terror actions, the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) says Canada’s shift to the right raises questions about its traditions of inclusion.

“It is a cause of concern, one that we need to watch,” said Thomas Huddleston of the Migration Policy Group, lead author of the European Union-funded, peer-reviewed index. Canada’s 2015 MIPEX profile will be released in Toronto on Wednesday.

“With Canada rolling back on some provisions from family reunification and citizenship, it is going to have an impact on immigrant integration. Other countries will follow Canada.”

Basing their ranking on 167 indicators, researchers surveyed the latest government policies as to how well they treat migrants in eight areas: labour market mobility, family reunification, education, health, political participation, permanent residence, access to nationality and anti-discrimination efforts.

The think tank compiles and standardizes data from its local research partners in all EU member states, plus Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States — and ranks the countries based on a 100-point scale.

In MIPEX’s last edition, published in 2011, Canada scored 72 points and ranked in third place, just behind Sweden and Portugal, which earned an overall 83 points and 79 points respectively.
While Canada dropped to sixth place in the 2015 index, details of how other countries ranked were not immediately available. Results are being rolled out one nation at a time until June 26, because organizers want each country to focus on its internal issues rather than comparing itself with others.

“One key to Canada’s immigration model has been that selected immigrants arrive as permanent residents with equal rights to invest in their integration and quickly become full Canadian citizens,” says the 2015 MIPEX profile on Canada.

“Recent delays and restrictions to family reunion and citizenship may bring unintended consequences for permanent residents, doing more harm than good to Canada’s integration outcomes.
“The increasing number of temporary workers may also be discouraged and delayed to invest with integration, as they have limited opportunities to try out new jobs or trainings, learn English or French for free or become permanent residents, citizens and voters.”

Professor Harald Bauder, academic director of the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement, said he was surprised Canada still fared quite well in light of the dramatic changes made to the immigration and refugee system by the Conservative government.

“Maybe, when compared to the significant changes made by countries all across the map, we’re still doing quite well despite the damage inflicted by Ottawa’s policy changes,” Bauder said.

He cited the suspension and capping of immigration sponsorship of parents; a backlog in spousal sponsorships; longer residency requirements and a higher passing mark for citizenship tests; and a younger age limit for dependents in family reunification as new bureaucratic hurdles for newcomer integration.

“My concern is it goes to the core of our Canadian identity,” Bauder said. “Canada is built by immigrants. When we are not as welcoming to our newcomers, we are denying our own identity.”

Migration Policy Group’s Huddleston said access to family reunification, citizenship and permanent residency are keys to immigrants feeling they belong and to encouraging them to participate fully in society, because these factors give them the stability and opportunity to set down roots.

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