Immigration is Critical to Canada’s Prosperity
Immigration has always been central to Canada’s economic and social prosperity. Newcomers to Canada have helped to weave our national fabric and identity. They have been instrumental in driving innovation, providing advanced skills for the economy, creating many of our largest companies and employers, and enabling economic growth. For the foreseeable future, immigrants to Canada will continue to be vital to our national interests.
Canada has had an enviable history of effective immigration and integration programs since the creation of the points-based selection system in 1967 established merit-based selection open to immigrants from all nations. This has earned Canada a strong international reputation, and we are often cited as a model of how to manage these aspects of nation-building. However, countries cannot stand still, and immigration management is no exception.
Canada needs to respond to domestic and global trends that are changing the immigration environment—changes that will likely require correspondingly significant policy and program development. We are witnessing a demographically induced shift from a buyer’s to a seller’s market in the global recruitment of top talent and skills, a shift to which Canada’s immigration system is not well-suited. The past five years have witnessed amendments to our immigration policies, and improvements have been made to some of the programs in order to address this shift. While these changes have increased the administrative efficiency of Canada’s immigration system, some fundamental issues remain unresolved.
The need for change is reinforced by evidence that immigrants arriving since the early 1990s have not caught up to the Canadian-born in annual earnings—a significant negative shift from previous decades, when they were able to catch up within five years. Today, too many immigrants are struggling to achieve the economic success that their skills, experience, and education credentials suggest they should.
Our view is that Canada is vulnerable. A modernization of policy and programming for all aspects of our immigration system is needed to sustain Canada’s position as a preferred country of destination for the world’s talent and as a safe and supportive home for family members and refugees. This includes selection, settlement, integration, labour market connection, credential recognition, and retention of immigrants. If Canada does not make changes, the Conference Board sees the country’s competitive position eroding, and with it our ability to maintain our economic prosperity.
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Network and Research Associate, Immigration